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‘A small timetable to get healthy’

Off-the-track concussion brings Olympic hopeful athlete to Michigan NeuroSport

Neuro_Medsport_061_BLOGShe’s no stranger to sports injuries, but hurdler and Olympic hopeful Candice Price had no idea what to do next when she was hurt in a bad car crash this fall. Price found herself with a concussion, and then debilitating headaches and some trouble keeping her balance.

“This has been one of the most challenging injuries,” Price says, “and there’s nothing visual I can point out to people, it’s just an injury to my brain.”

Price, an Ann Arbor-area native, visited sports neurologist Andrea Almeida, M.D., at the Michigan NeuroSport clinic right away to figure out how to improve her symptoms and get back to preparing for Rio de Janeiro this summer for the 2016 Olympics.

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“There’s just a small timetable to get healthy, so I can get back to training at 100 percent and make the Olympic team,” Price said. This is her final push to represent the U.S., after missing the team while pregnant with her daughter Gianna during the last Summer Olympics and barely missing it in 2008. Price, a seven-time All American with the University of Southern California, also ran professionally for the past seven years with Adidas.

The headaches were even making it difficult to care for 3-year-old Gianna, but luckily her family was able to help out when she just couldn’t get up to play. Price was surprised when Dr. Almeida told her she was going to use exercise as part of her treatment plan.

“Once our athletes hear they can actually do activity, as long as it’s supervised and at a moderate intensity level, that alone improves their symptoms, especially the mood-related symptoms,” Almeida says. “Some athletes don’t even realize the positive impact their sport plays on many aspects of their lives until you take it away.”

For Price, going back to the gym helped the depression that was starting to set in around being injured and wishing she could more actively play and take care of her daughter.

She now sees several members of the Michigan NeuroSport team throughout the week, including a physical therapist for neck and back issues after the injury, a vestibular therapist for balance and dizziness and Dr. Almeida who coordinates her care in between.

“Dr. Almeida monitors my heart rate as I’m working out, and looks at what variables could be causing my headaches,” Price said. “The headaches are unpredictable, so it’s been challenging.”

For Almeida, Price’s case is an interesting one because her injury happened outside of her sport, but Price must continue to recover to get back to training at full capacity.

“There are so many factors that can contribute to her symptoms that must be taken into account as she trains,” Almeida says. “I’m also continuing to monitor the mechanics of her workout and other outside factors such as sleep and mood that contribute to overall progress.”

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It makes a difference that athletes are often some of the best patients when it comes to following the doctor’s recommendations.

“She’s one of the most fun to treat, because she’s so driven and dedicated to recovering,” Almeida says. “It’s not just a sport for Candice, it’s her career.”

Price’s schedule is starting to look like it used to before the crash, with weight training, coaching and preparing for her return to the Olympic trials all in a regular day’s work. And as long as the headaches she experiences are mild, she can keep working out on those days, too.

“I think she should be 100 percent sooner than she thinks, hopefully making the Olympics, and this ‘small hurdle’ should become a vague memory,” Almeida says.

“For me, it’s huge that Dr. Almeida is so committed to my success,” Price said. “You just don’t find that type of dedication. Whatever the result is, I know we did everything we could do.”


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Neuro_Medsport_016Andrea Almeida, M.D., is co-director of Michigan NeuroSport and clinical lecturer in neurology. She completed her medical training at St. Georges University School of Medicine, and her residency at Tulane University before serving as the first sports neurology fellow at U-M. Almeida treats athletes at all levels, from teenagers to Olympic hopefuls like Candice Price, and serves with her Michigan NeuroSport co-director Dr. Matt Lorincz as neurologists for Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan athletes.